Turkish Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel told presidential envoy Clark Clifford today that he cannot make concessions on Cyrpus during this crucial election year. But he promised, if re-elected, to bring about a settlement of the Cyprus conflict and normalize Turkey's relations with Greece, Western diplomats said.
On the strength of this promise, Demirel asked that President Carter work to restore U.S. military aid and arms sales to Turkey, cut off by Congress after Turkey's 1974 invasion of Cyprus.
Removal of the two-year-old arms embargo would boost Demirel's election chances, while appearing to bow to American pressure on Cyprus would weaken them.
General elections are scheduled for October, but could be brought forward to June.
Demirel's conservative Justice Party presently rules with the tenuous support of three other rightist groups. Demirel, who is pro-Western, does not expect to win an absolute majority in new elections, but hopes to gain enough seats to rule for the next four years with a less unwieldly coaltion.
His main competitor for votes is Bulent Ecevit's Socialist Republican People's Party, now the largest party in Parliament, which favors looser ties with the West.
Clifford, here to press for a speedy solution of the Cyprus conflict, seemed at pains to avoid public mention of the issue, stressing instead U.S.-Turkish relations.
But Demirel confirmed that Cyprus had been discussed, saying: "Cyprus is always discussed when this matter is taken up, because Cyprus has been the prime factor for our relations' reaching this state.
"For many years we enjoyed a good friendship with the United States and we are willing to continue this alliance," Demirel told reporters.
"Relations between our two countries entered a difficult period following the embargo imposed by the United States on Turkey," he said, adding: "It is in the interest of both countries that the damage which has occurred be mended."
The Turks responded to the congressional arms ban by suspending operations in July 1975 at 26 U.S. bases in Turkey, including top-secret installations monitoring troop movements in the neighboring Soviet Union.
Turkey has threatened to close the bases permanently and reduce its contribution to Western defense if U.S. military aid and arms sales are not soon restored.
In March 1976, Turkey and the Ford administration negotiated an agreement giving Turkey $1 billion in military aid and grants over the next four years in exchange for reopening the bases.
The accord must be approved by Congress, and congressmen have linked passage to progress on Cyprus.
The Carter White House has said action on the agreement will depend on Clifford's findings. The former Defense Secretary spent three days in Athens talking with Greek leaders last week, and is to fly to cyprus Wednesday for talks with Archbishop Makarios and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Turkish newspapers continued to attack Clifford's mission today as meddling in Turkey's affairs.